Caribbean Airlines closes the door on long-haul to Europe

The latest update of the airline’s inventory for 2016 shows the cancellation of any future bookings for the Port of Spain – London Gatwick route with effect from January 12, 2016. This would mean the last flights on the three times weekly route will operate from the Caribbean on January 9, 2016 and from the UK on January 10, 2016.

As had been widely anticipated, Caribbean Airlines is to suspend flights to Europe in the first quarter of next year.  We reported last month (see 'Caribbean Airlines Undecided On Long-Haul Route Closure') that the carrier remained undecided over the future of the flights to London, believed to be flying at a loss, however, this week the operator has closed reservations as it instead concentrate on its services to the US and Canadian markets of North America.

The latest update of the airline’s inventory for 2016 shows the cancellation of any future bookings for the Port of Spain – London Gatwick route with effect from January 12, 2016.  This would mean the last flights on the three times weekly route will operate from the Caribbean on January 9, 2016 and from the UK on January 10, 2016.

In a statement the airline confirmed that having conducted a detailed review of its network, consistent with the current competitive environment,  it had taken the difficult decision to withdraw the Boeing 767 fleet from its operations.  "This has not been an easy decision," said the carrier,  but "unfortunately, the costs associated with maintaining the Boeing 767 aircraft operation, has led Caribbean Airlines to the decision of simplifying its fleet and focusing its limited resources to build connectivity in the North American and Caribbean markets."

The UK flights have been in operation for three years but have failed to make money in the face of competition from established UK carriers.  The national airline of Trinidad and Tobago has a strong regional network with scheduled flights between other Island nations in the Caribbean. The airline's network also reaches to Miami, New York and Canada, alongside the link to London Gatwick which was introduced in June 2012.

Its launch to London represented the resumption of the first regular direct service between Trinidad and the UK since Caribbean Airlines predecessor BWIA West Indies Airways ended its long-haul flights into Europe. However, although it remains the sole non-stop provider between London and both Trinidad and Tobago, it competes with British Airways flights to Port of Spain via St Lucia and Tobago via Antigua and Virgin Atlantic Airways’ services to Tobago via St Lucia.

Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand statistics shows that Caribbean Airlines has seen relatively strong loads on the flight between the Trinidad and Tobago and the UK, suggesting that the strong competition from established operators, albeit with a stopping service were impacting yields. 

The data does show that average air fares on the route declined around three per cent over the first seven months of 2015 versus the same period in 2014 with demand and average loads also falling, notably by a much larger margin - the July 2015 performance was the lowest level since the route was started.